My Kind Of Town: Rome
It’s a great city with more history than you can shake a stick at, classy people, and a great atmosphere. You can walk around most of it in a day, and the weather is normally perfect.
What do you miss most when you are away?
Corned beef, Marmite, pubs, and London cabbies. But not in a pathetic way – experiencing new places more than compensates for it.
What’s the first thing you do when you return?
Download all the photos and type up my travel blog so I never forget the experience.
Where is the best place to stay?
The Sofitel in the posh Villa Borghese district (00 39 06 47 80 2999). Go up to the seventh floor where they have a bar and restaurant called La Terrasse. Here you can stare out over the whole city, with the Vatican taking poll position. At night you can witness all sorts of illuminated landmarks whilst sipping an obscure cocktail or my favourite, limoncello.
Where would you meet friends for a drink?
The Rosati restaurant in Piazza del Popolo (00 39 06 322 5859). Actually, any of several restaurants in this delightful square will do. Flanked by the matching domes of the Santa Maria churches and the Porta del Popolo, you can either stare at the huge Egyptian obelisk in the centre, or the people wandering around the various fountains. The Romans are obsessed with obelisks, with one in the centre of almost every piazza. This one is over 3,000 years old, and was carried here all the way from its homeland.
Where is your favourite place for lunch?
Pretty much anywhere on the Piazza Narvona, where you can peruse the works of the local artists, and examine the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, in which giants represent the four great rivers – the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate. Or you can just have lunch in the sun and stare at the trendy locals. La Focaccia (00 39 06 6880 3312) is in a beautiful lane just off it, with an impressive dining room and outside tables in the summer. A classic spot for people watching and setting the world to rights.
And for dinner?
The top floor of the sumptuous Hotel Eden (00 39 06 478 121). It’s extremely expensive but the food and service are immaculate. Have a drink in the bar first. Then move through to your table and try the duck main course. Round off with a quality red wine and the cheese selection, whilst overseeing the entire city.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
Victor Emmanuel’s monument. It’s completely over the top. Tons of Brescian white marble entirely dedicated to the first king of a unified Italy. Of course, he commissioned it himself, and presumably thought that the 39 foot bronze statue of him on a horse was a perfectly modest tribute to his achievements. A truly massive folly that deserves its own post code.
What would you tell them to avoid?
Surprisingly, the Colosseum. It is completely dilapidated, all the fine stone facings have been ripped off and used to make other palaces, bridges and even St.Peter’s. Unlike many other large monuments, there is no sense of wow! when you get inside. The floor in the centre has been ripped up to reveal the cells that were used to house animals and prisoners, thus removing any sense of what the original auditorium might have been like. In short, it’s crowded and not that spectacular. They should restore a quarter of it inside and out to show how it originally was.
Public transport or taxi?
You can walk pretty much everywhere, and that way you’ll discover all the charming back streets. But the Metro and cabs are perfectly fine if you’re worn out.
Handbag or moneybelt?
Handbag. It’s such a pleasant atmosphere, there’s nothing to worry about.
What should I take home with me?
A cooking apron with Michelangelo’s naked statue on it. It’ll raise a smile when you next cook a meal.
On top of Vesuvius...